When Matt Cutts and Jason Shellen introduced the concept of using nofollow links to prevent spamdexing back in 2005, the concept was accepted... but flew under the radar. When the Google algorithm shook things up recently, best usage of dofollow and nofollow links for content creators and SEO suddenly started to get blurry. Let’s set the record straight.
The Big Link Calamity!
After the advent of nofollow links in 2005, Google strongly recommend paid or sponsored link ads on your site be nofollow to signal that you are paying for the link. Despite this, their algorithm basically ignored anything to do with nofollow links, and websites independently chose whether or not to make sponsored links nofollow. When the newest algorithm updates went live, many websites that didn’t mark their sponsored links as nofollow suddenly saw noticeable negative effects on their page rank.
Content creators panicked in the confusion, and since then many of them have been very cautious about using ANY dofollow links. But should blogs default to nofollow links? Absolutely not. In reality, the majority of your links are completely safe as dofollow.
Proper backlinking to your own website’s homepage.
When advertising on others’ websites, you want nofollow links coming back to your homepage. Google establishes whether or not your brand is trustworthy by looking at the existence of quality backlinks leading to your homepage. Having paid-for nofollow links can communicate to Google that your business is using advertising, a legitimizing practice.
Now, that doesn’t mean all of your backlinks should be nofollow. The majority of pages ranking at #1 on Google only have around 10% - 40% nofollow backlinks, tops.
Deciding on nofollow or dofollow for links in your own site’s content.
When deciding whether to make links in your own content nofollow or dofollow, you should feel reassured that dofollow links are perfectly safe for your website, and essential for building your page rank in searches. There are a couple exceptions to using dofollow links. The most common scenario is when you know you are linking to a shady or spammy website. Using a nofollow link tells Google that you are not endorsing the unsavory site as a link juice-worthy page, but still provides that reference for your flesh-and-blood readers. If a spammy or shady website isn't the case though, dofollow links can help you and the credible sources you're linking to. Backlinks for all!
Keep in mind you may be using nofollow links and not even realize it. For example, WordPress has plugins to automatically create “nofollow” links in your website’s posts. Look for the box on the right-hand side of your ‘new post’ screen and you can choose to use rel=”nofollow” attributes on all links in a certain post or to turn on link following for that post. This is an especially important feature to check if you want to provide link juice (and relevant backlinks) to the sites you're linking to.
In summary, if you like and trust the websites you are linking to in your content, keep them as dofollow. It benefits you, and the sites you are linking to. Happy link building!